Skip to main content

John McLaughlin papers, 1922-1979, bulk 1936-1976

Biographical Note

John Dwyer McLaughlin (1898-1976) was best known as one of the leading Los Angeles "hard-edge" geometric abstractionist painters and one of the artists featured in the seminal 1959 exhibition "Four Abstract Classicists" curated by Jules Langsner. McLaughlin was also a dealer of Japanese art prints.
McLaughlin was born and educated in Massachusetts. He served in the United States Navy during World War I from 1917-1921 and married Florence Emerson in 1928. McLaughlin began painting around 1932 with no formal training. In 1935, the couple moved to Japan and lived there for several years before moving back to Boston, where they opened The Tokaido, Inc., a Japanese art print gallery. From this time up to the start of World War II, McLaughlin worked primarily as a print dealer. During World War II, he served as a language intelligence officer in the Marines, thanks to his knowledge of Japanese.
After the war, McLaughlin and his wife settled in Dana Point, California, where he began painting in earnest, gaining some early local success. His painting, Hope Deferred was awarded first prize for oil painting in the 1948 San Diego Art Guild Annual. He became associated with the Felix Landau Gallery in Los Angeles and was one of four painters included in the historic 1959 Four Abstract Classicists, exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art organized by critic Jules Langsner which also featured the work of Frederick Hammersley, Lorser Feitelson, and Karl Benjamin. The phrase "hard-edge painting" was first used in association with this exhibition as a description of a unique California style of geometric abstractionist painting.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s McLaughlin exhibited widely and became a mentor for many younger Los Angeles area reductive painters. He was admired for his integrity and independent position regarding the art market. John McLaughlin died in Dana Point, California in 1976 at the age of 77.